Son of the Velvet Rat – Solitary Company
This is the 2nd CD previewed this week that involved proficient foreigners (from unlikely countries) who perform excellent Roots-Americana. 8 out of 10 cuts on Solitary Company (Drops March 19-Fluff & Gravy Records) are compelling & interesting. Son of the Velvet Rat is an Austrian husband-wife duo & this is their 9th LP.
Georg Altziebler & Heike Binder immigrated to America to ride the endless highways, settle in CA & sculpted a Euro-Folk Noir with cabaret traditions. While one would instantly think Leonard Cohen & select Tom Waits – Georg’s gravelly tonality reminds me more of the school of singer-songwriter Chip Taylor crossed with The Tiger Lilies (“Hell”) but not as starkly maniacal & outrageous.
Their elegance is found in the application of their varied instruments. Many musicians are involved throughout too numerous to mention. “Alicia,” while not as dark as Brecht-Weil has touches of gypsy violin, Ramblin Jack Elliott & definitely Chip Taylor. That alone makes for an interesting listen.
“Solitary Company,” is closer to the eccentric Tom Waits for interpretation with heavy drama/dark cabaret overtones with wait for it – a dab of the finest moments of the late Lothar Meid — the deep-voice from the German-prog band Amon Duul II (“You’re Not Alone”). “Solitary Company,” would’ve been better without the treated vocals. But the strings are solid (Kaitlin Wolfberg & Eric Clarke violins, Heather Locke, viola & Emily Elkin – cello).
Track 3 has an oom-pah-pah beat (Sebastian Rochford) with a delicate cowboy whistle (provided by Heike Binder’s theremin). “Stardust” with producer Gar Robertson & Georg (guitars), Eric McCann (acoustic bass). I like it. Strange things can be beautiful. The saloon-carnival German-expressionism atmosphere of “When the Lights Go Down” continues with effective vocals & a creepy ambience. Good backup vocals & Heike (accordion), Georg (harmonica), funeral dirge-like drums Danny Frankel & Gar (fuzz guitar). Tom Waits would be proud.
Creativity abounds on “Beautiful Disarray” as Scott Kisinger (Drago) adds trumpet & trombone to good effect. Anthony Patler throws in waves of Hammond notes. Certainly, a riveting bunch.
There’s substance, originality, & cleverness at work here. I admire how these people take something that already exists traditionally & reinterprets it with their own ingredients to recreate something truly effective that resonates. “11 & 9” are numbers on a roulette wheel. Excellently rendered, with the quirky pleasure of gambling (on what?) & performed with a lack of sugar by Georg & Heike. Sweetness is not in abundance. This CD is straight whiskey.
Georg performs solo on acoustic guitar with the melodic “The Waterlily & the Dragonfly” & Chip Taylor comparisons would return on the finale — “Remember Me” — a wonderful song.
The 42-minute/10-cut CD was produced by Gar Robertson & Georg Altziebler.